For now it seems Mnangagwa can do little wrong


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With its rundown high density housing and bustling informal street markets and vendors, Mbare stands in part as testimony to the slump in Zimbabwe’s formal economy under Mugabe’s rule.

Zimbabweans joke that in Mbare, you can buy anything, including the parts they stole from your car the night before, but real jobs here are genuinely scarce.

Under Mugabe’s 37-year rule, the rate of unemployment rose to more than 80 per cent, forcing many people to eke out a living by hawking on the streets, giving rise to Mbare’s Mupedzanhamo Market, loosely translated from the Shona language as ‘end poverty’.

Not surprisingly as resentment against Mugabe’s ZANU-PF regime grew in this impoverished community, so support for its bitter rivals the MDC grew in tandem, miring Mbare in incidents of political violence, especially in the run up to elections.

Fears that such violence might this time around be repeated as Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF and the MDC along with hundreds of candidates from other parties go head to head appear though unfounded.

Over the past week after speaking with many ordinary Zimbabweans as well as political activists, not once did I hear fears expressed that the coming electoral contest would spill onto the streets in violence.

“There may be the usual few young hot heads, who usually after drinking try to stir up trouble, but that will be about as bad as it gets, I’m certain,” one activist in Mbare told me, echoing what I was to hear time and again from other citizens both in Harare and outside the capital.

If such a tolerant attitude prevails in Mbare, something of a potential political flashpoint, then this say observers augurs well for Zimbabwe as a whole.

In Mbare township uncollected refuse, overcrowding, rampant petty crime and widespread health and sanitation problems, tell a sorry tale of the years during which the Mugabe regime let the township and much of Zimbabwe rot.

In the process it made Mbare not just the epicentre of political unrest but prone to typhoid and cholera outbreaks along the way.

“Mbare is a tough place to live, surely you can see that for yourself just standing here,” says Joseph Masenda while his sister nearby fills a bucket with water from an open communal pipe at the foot of a block of dilapidated redbrick flats where many of the windows are broken or boarded up.

“We need change, big change, and if Mnangagwa cannot bring it, then some new leader has to,” insists Masenda who like so many other Mbare residents’ struggles to make ends meet in the unofficial sector as a street vendor.

Continued next page

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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